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TheIT
07-03-2007, 12:30 AM
Any archers out there? In my fantasy WIP, one of my characters is going to be part of an archery competition and I'm trying to figure out how to set it up. So far I've found information about two basic types of real world competitions: either the archers shoot a set number of arrows at fixed targets or the archers rove through a course and shoot at targets. The world my story is set in has magic, so I'm considering spicing up the competition.

Would a competition where the archers shot at moving targets be of interest? I'm thinking a mage could cast illusions of birds or animals which move like their normal counterparts. Another thought was to have illusions cast upon the targets to hide them or confuse the course so the archer would have to pick the shot more carefully.

In real world competitions, are they separated by gender, i.e. men vs. men and women vs. women? For story reasons, I'd like to have this competition be mixed.

I've asked this in the "Sabotaging a Tournament" thread and got some good answers, but I'll ask again. Any thoughts on how someone could sabotage an archer so that he loses but doesn't realize the sabotage until later? Right now the best idea I've heard is to flash a mirror into his eyes to distract him.

Thanks in advance.

Selimthegrim
07-03-2007, 01:51 AM
I'm an archer. I shoot traditional Turkish/Mongolian style with a thumb ring draw. Most of my practice, however, is on a western field archery course - the roving type.

In answer to your specific questions, yes, men and women shoot separately. This is usually because men tend to pull higher draw weight bows, and higher draw weight bows have a flatter trajectory. However, that doesn't mean that women can't be competitive when shooting against men, and there's no reason they couldn't - especially in a fantasy context. As to shooting at moving targets, I find stationary targets to be more than challenging enough, but many primitive/field archery shoots will have targets set up for fun that have a twist to them. I've seen moving targets like at a shooting gallery, I've seen competitions that require you to shoot a bow from a moving canoe in a stream, etc. There are a lot of fun things you can do to make the game more challenging.

As to sabotaging someone, it depends on what sort of archery gear they use. For a fantasy world, I would imagine you wouldn't get a lot of olympic style archers shooting with complicated sighting mechanisms. If you had that, simply changing the marked range to the target would really mess them up. For primitive shooters, who just shoot by feel, it's harder to mess up the actual process of aiming, because it's all internal. However, I can think of a few ways to do it. If you want to have magic involved, a person could cast an enchantment on the bow, making it a lighter or heavier draw weight. This could seriously affect the shooter, but he might think he's just feeling very weak or strong that day. Another possibility would be to change the cast on a bow or the string follow. That can be changed by messing with the thickness of the limbs or the weight at the tips of the limbs. Again, magic could accomplish that fairly easily.

Without magic, you could sabotage someone by replacing his arrows with some that have a much lighter spine. When you shoot a bow, the arrows have to be of an appropriate strength to the bow you're firing, or it can cause huge problems. Mostly the arrows will veer off course because of the archer's paradox, but in extreme cases the arrows can explode (usually in the case of wood. Aluminum can be less dramatic). So, if the person is clever, he could trade in one archer's arrows with identical-looking ones with a lighter spine. That might not be readily noticeable but it would really sabotage the other person, and unless an arrow exploded it wouldn't be noticeable.

Another thing, if you're shooting with primitive bows, might be to intentionally weaken an opponent's bow so that it breaks when it's being fired. This wouldn't be obvious sabotage, as primitive style wood bows, especially unbacked ones, tend to break fairly regularly. It's really considered an eventuality amongst primitive shooters. This would force the person to pick up a secondary bow that he's less familiar with, and that could hurt his chances because he wouldn't be as accustomed to it. Without modern machining and sights, having to use a bow you're less familiar with is a huge handicap.

Anyway, I hope those ideas help.

TheIT
07-03-2007, 02:18 AM
Thanks, this helps. Welcome to AW, Selimthegrim! Yes, it's a more primitive world, so no fancy sighting mechanisms. I was thinking longbow.

So weight would be a factor? Weight of the bow and arrows, plus where the weight is? That might be something I can use. The saboteur is on the same team as the archer, but he wants to cast blame on someone from a different team. The problem is to make certain the opponent had some opportunity to access the equipment.

What's the archer's paradox?

Another possible sabotage might be while the arrow is in-flight. A magical item might be used to draw the arrow off-course, something like a magnet for wood.

Selimthegrim
07-03-2007, 02:33 AM
Basically, when you shoot an arrow, it bends around the handle of the bow, and continues to oscillate in flight, like a wave pattern. Depending on the style of draw you use, you have to put the arrow on one side of the bow or the other. For a right-handed person (holding the bow in the left hand with the right hand drawing the bow) the arrow goes on the left side of the bow. This is because when you draw the bow with three fingers, the string rolls a bit, causing the arrow to push to the right. If the arrow is on the right side of the bow, and you draw it, then it will pull away to the right, flop off your hand, and hang there uselessly. However, when using a thumb ring, you put pressure on the arrow in the other direction, meaning the arrow has to go on the right side of the bow. That's why Kyudo (Japanese archery) has the arrow on the "wrong" side of the bow.

This is important because how much the arrow twists around the handle partially determines how accurate you are with it. An arrow that is too light in spine will bend around the handle too much, causing you to miss. However, an arrow that is too heavy won't conform to the handle enough, and will be more likely to miss as well. It's one of those tricky things.

The draw weight is a factor because it determines how much energy you're giving to the arrow. Generally speaking, the heavier the draw weight, the more energy you're giving to the arrow, so the faster it goes, and the flatter the trajectory. (However, this isn't always the case, as progressively heavier bows need progressively heavier arrows, and other parts of the bow's efficiency come into play).

Another factor is the mass of the bow's limbs. Heavy limbs will be slower to snap back into place. So, a bow with too much weight out in the limbs will tend to shoot an arrow more slowly than it otherwise might. So, if you make the limbs artificially heavy, then they will shoot the arrow more slowly. A slower arrow means that it's not as flat a trajectory.

The thing to remember is that an arrow flies in an arc. So, if you want to hit a target very far away, you have to angle the bow progressively higher to compensate for the amount it's falling due to gravity. If you have a bow that shoots arrows more slowly, you will have to compensate more by raising the bow higher than you would otherwise. Remember that an arrow, like any projectile, will fall at the same speed it would if you simply dropped it from the height of the bow. So the faster it is traveling, the more distance it covers before it hits the ground. So, if you mess with the draw weight, the cast, or any of the factors that affect the speed of the arrow, then the archer will have to compensate, sometimes drastically, to get the arrow to follow the right path to hit the target.

Mr. Fix
07-03-2007, 02:39 AM
Yeah, what Selimthegrim said.;)

TheIT
07-03-2007, 03:12 AM
So, lots of factors to play with, eh? This could be fun. :D

The person the saboteur is trying to blame is telekinetic. If the arrow gets nudged mid-flight, I could see that it would miss its intended target.

They'll have something in place to prevent magical interference, or would they? Hmmm... this tournament is meant to be in honor of the king's silver jubilee. The best competitors will compete in front of the king. Stakes are high, but honor is also in play. Anyone caught cheating would be committing a severe breach of etiquette. So maybe they don't have anything to prevent magical interference, but instead to detect magic.

In competitions, do the archers shoot simultaneously or one at a time?

Selimthegrim
07-03-2007, 03:25 AM
So, lots of factors to play with, eh? This could be fun. :D

The person the saboteur is trying to blame is telekinetic. If the arrow gets nudged mid-flight, I could see that it would miss its intended target.

They'll have something in place to prevent magical interference, or would they? Hmmm... this tournament is meant to be in honor of the king's silver jubilee. The best competitors will compete in front of the king. Stakes are high, but honor is also in play. Anyone caught cheating would be committing a severe breach of etiquette. So maybe they don't have anything to prevent magical interference, but instead to detect magic.

In competitions, do the archers shoot simultaneously or one at a time?

Depends on the competition and the set up. You could theoretically do it either way. If the course is roving, you could have it be like a game of golf - that's the way I think of field archery anyway, golf for cool people ;) That way you could have one team or person start, then a few minutes later let the other team go. Both would be on the course, but several targets apart. Or, you could do it a gazillion other ways. I find with my own fantasy I like to find out exactly how something works in reality, and then totally not do that.

TheIT
07-03-2007, 04:29 AM
Or, you could do it a gazillion other ways. I find with my own fantasy I like to find out exactly how something works in reality, and then totally not do that.

Exactly the reason I start threads like this one. :D

The competition is going to have an audience, so it'll probably be fixed targets. I assume elementary safety precautions mean don't put the targets near the grandstand? ;) About how much space is needed? Would shooting uphill or downhill make much of a difference?

Selimthegrim
07-03-2007, 05:13 AM
For me, and I'm no robin hood, shooting uphill and downhill are totally different. Uphill is much, much harder for me. Downhill is easier for me than a flat range. Since I shoot in southern california, which is pretty mountainous, I get mostly uphill and downhill ranges. I guess the reason downhill is easier is that you can just point the arrow at the target. The drop on the arrow doesn't matter much, because the course drops too. On uphill though, especially steep uphill, you have to aim high enough that even with gravity the arrow ends up higher than where it started. I always flub it. So, imho, uphill makes things a bunch harder.

As far as distance, you would probably need about 100 yards total for experienced archers, with ranges from 10 yards all the way out to 100. And yes, probably best to put the grandstand out of the line of fire.

Puma
07-03-2007, 02:19 PM
Hi TheIt - I don't know if you've ever watched the movie Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn. If you haven't, you should. The archery competition in it is pretty interesting and might give you some ideas. Puma

Parkinsonsd
07-04-2007, 12:06 AM
I would recommend attending a traditional archery competition near you. The archers are generally very helpful, and you could get a first hand look at how they do it, and what they do, the forms they use. I'm sure the archers would answer any questions you had.

Selimthegrim
07-04-2007, 12:38 AM
Yeah that's a good suggestion. I can give you directions to archery ranges in both Pasadena and Simi Valley if those are near you, theIt. I might be able to find some others too if I look.

l_clausewitz
07-04-2007, 06:51 PM
Depends on the competition and the set up. You could theoretically do it either way. If the course is roving, you could have it be like a game of golf - that's the way I think of field archery anyway, golf for cool people ;)

Er...if I remember correctly, roving marks was the original precursor to golf.

Selimthegrim
07-04-2007, 10:06 PM
I hadn't heard that, but it could very well be the case.

Terry L. Sanders
07-09-2007, 01:09 AM
I'm with Selim. Your best bet is to switch the arrows. They'd have to be GOOD forgeries, but if the markings, etc., were right it would work.
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And the beauty of it is, the fakes would themselves be good arrows! All you have to do is give him some with different spines. They'd work just fine for someone else, with a different bow or different drawing style. They just don't work well for the victim.
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And it wouldn't be at all obvious what had happened. We didn't figure out the significance of arrow "spine" until relatively recently. The typical archer of the far past would just shoot a bunch of different arrows and keep the ones that worked for him. He would know some worked and some didn't--but he wouldn't know why...

l_clausewitz
07-09-2007, 07:19 AM
Though he'd still know enough to pick the most consistent bunch...

To say the truth, I matched none of my best arrows' spine to the bow. I just chose the largest bunch with the same deflection (slightly to the left in this case) and decided to use them all together when I'm in particular need of accuracy.

TheIT
07-09-2007, 10:13 PM
Would shaving or sanding wood off the center of an arrow affect its flight?

How often can a wooden arrow be reused? How easily do arrows break?

Selimthegrim
07-09-2007, 10:47 PM
Would shaving or sanding wood off the center of an arrow affect its flight?

How often can a wooden arrow be reused? How easily do arrows break?

It just depends. I've actually bent aluminum arrows accidentally, just from missing the target and hitting the ground. On the other hand, I've driven aluminum arrows through a target and into a tree and had them be perfectly fine. My wooden arrows tend to be a bit more fragile when it comes to harsh treatment. However, the most common way to break an arrow that I've found is to hit something really hard with it - like a rock. As far as how often it can be reused. It can be reused till it breaks.

l_clausewitz
07-10-2007, 08:02 AM
"How easily do arrows break?" is a question that can't be answered easily. Just to take an example, I have a set of six bamboo arrows, two of which had been broken and repaired in the past. The remaining four had never been broken at all although they've experienced quite as much abuse as the other two.

My older set of arrows were all wooden, and they were somewhat more prone to breaking--but it's difficult to judge how much because part of it must have been due to the fact that I wasn't as skilled (both in archery and in repairing broken arrows) then as I am now. And I take much better care of my current sets of arrows than I ever did with the previous ones. ;)

TheIT
07-12-2007, 03:05 AM
Thanks for the Robin Hood suggestion, Puma! I picked up the "Adventured of Robin Hood" DVD last night, and the competition is giving me ideas. They had several targets set up at the same range with a set of archers shooting simultaneously, then the next rank shot, and so on. Looked like an elimination tournament which is what I'm aiming for (so to speak ;) ).

The DVD also had a short documentary about Howard Hill doing trick shots which was also instructive. I think I'm going to have to do some more research about him.

Any idea about how to find archery competitions in the SF Bay Area?

l_clausewitz
07-12-2007, 06:45 AM
Howard Hill? Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes. Get any and all information you can find about him. He's a modern and not a medieval archer, but much of his experience can be very instructive for a writer seeking to write just about any kind of archery competition short of mounted archery.

As for finding competitions, my first recommendation would be http://www.usarchery.org/

Thump
07-12-2007, 06:56 AM
If you need more info, you might want to contact your local/nearest SCA chapter (that's Society for Creative Anchronism). Archery is pretty big with them. They organize a lot of medieval archery contests and they are a fountain of information regarding medieval archery, bow-making, arrows.

I dated one of these guys for a while who lived off making bows and arrows. The level of research they do to get this stuff right rivals any scholar's. They are also very happy to talk about it to anyone who asks :)

TheIT
07-19-2007, 09:32 PM
I thought of another tack to take. Perhaps the archer discovers something has gone wrong with his arrows before the competition so he's forced to compete with different equipment. He's irritated by the setback and shoots poorly.

So, questions regarding wooden arrows:

1) How much are arrows tailored to an individual archer? Sounds like an archer needs arrows which are strong enough to be used with his bow. Would using a different set throw off the archer's aim?

2) Would soaking arrows in water destroy them enough to make them unuseable? I could see wood absorbing water and warping, also is the fletching held on with glue which might dissolve?

3) The situation is that the archer and his entourage have just travelled to the city for the competition, so the saboteur might have damaged the competition equipment on the journey since he has another scapegoat in mind. How would arrows be transported by people riding horses?

Puma
07-20-2007, 03:32 AM
Hi TheIt - I'm not your best reference source, but - when I was a kid we had wooden bows and arrows and a soft leather quiver to carry the arrows in. One of the problems with the old fashioned wooden arrows was that the "feathers" were actually pieces of bird feather glued onto the shaft. Once in a while they'd come off, or, somehow some of them got trimmed down which changed the way they flew (I sort of suspect my brother may have been responsible for some of the trimming). And, sometimes bowstrings would break when they were pulled too taut.

I can't remember your time period, but the leather quiver with a shoulder strap would be fine for transporting arrows on horseback. Tampering with the "feathers" - trimming or even cutting them down at an angle would cause problems. Making a small cut in a bowstring so it would snap when pulled would also be good sabotage. And now I'll let some more knowledgeable folks respond. Puma

Parkinsonsd
07-20-2007, 03:46 AM
Here's the deal, and I'm having a heck of a time with this problem in real life right now.

Each arrow has what's called a "spine" or the amount of flex in the arrow. People who draw stiffer bows need arrows with more spine. Also, arrows are made in different weights, nowadays we call it grains.

Here's the confusing part, the spine is often times spoken of in terms of "pounds" which really means what draw weight is good for those arrows.

Depending on the tree, where in the tree the arrow shaft was taken, the type of wood, the thickness of the shaft and the length of the arrow, your spine for each shaft will be a little different.

Arrowmakers have to sort each shaft both by weight and spine before they make the shafts into arrows.

Now, the longer the arrow, the weaker the spine becomes (it's a little like a lever in this respect). It bends too much and becomes too floppy. If it's too stiff, it doesn't bend enough.

For a really good discussion of this stuff, go to a website called bowjackson.com and he'll explain the stuff pretty good. Also, Easton arrows used to have a pdf arrow tuning guide, which also explained what happened when your arrows were too long or too short, or when they were too stiff or too floppy.

I will tell you that your accuracy sufers dramatically if your arrows aren't properly spined for your bow and your draw length.

Oh, there's a nother term. Draw length. Each person has a draw length, the average is around 28 inches. Generally, you make your arrows one inch longer than your draw length. Now if you have a really big guy (like me) with a 31 inch draw length, he'll need 32 inch arrows. FYI, another rule of thumb is that each inch is about equal to 5 pounds of spine. At any rate, some other smarty will jump in here and tell you the rest.

TheIT
07-20-2007, 03:53 AM
My fantasy universe has a pre-industrial level of technology. No electricity or gunpowder.

What I'm thinking is that my archer character has a set of specially picked arrows he intends to use for the competition which were carefully packed away during the journey. Perhaps they're rolled up in a tarp in a wooden chest? The saboteur was trying to delay the journey, so he weakened some of the straps holding the gear on the pack horse. The straps broke while they were fording a stream, and all the gear got dumped in the water. At the time, the character who the saboteur is setting up as a scapegoat checked the arrows to make sure they were dry and packed them away again. Unbeknownst to the scapegoat and everyone else, the saboteur got hold of the arrows, soaked them in water, and repacked them. Maybe he soaks the extra bowstrings, too. A couple of days later, the archer unpacks them on the night before or morning of the competition and discovers they're ruined. Depending on how long the arrows stayed wet, I'm thinking simple mildew might make them unuseable.

Parkinsonsd
07-20-2007, 04:01 AM
This actually happened in the international competition a few years ago. The guy was flying over from the US and someone took his bow case and filled it with water, totally wrecked his bow. He had to borrow one for the competition.

TheIT
07-20-2007, 04:10 AM
Glad to hear this is feasible, though pity it was because of a real-life incident. My sympathy goes out to that archer. What a nasty thing to do.

This scenario works well for the story. The scapegoat has confidence issues, plus everyone treats him as a boy who cried wolf. This will do well to reinforce the image.

Thanks for your help, everyone! Now to figure out what to do with the swordsman...

l_clausewitz
07-20-2007, 08:13 AM
1) How much are arrows tailored to an individual archer? Sounds like an archer needs arrows which are strong enough to be used with his bow. Would using a different set throw off the archer's aim?

It depends heavily on the archer's level of skill and the arrows' purpose. A war arrow is not very likely to be greatly customized, since it is meant to be somewhat expendable. On the other hand, competition arrows--which are meant to be reusable, and to be reused many, many times--are often quite well customized. But not always. As I've said before, I never bothered to match my arrows' spine to my bow, but my current set is quite accurate nevertheless. Any inaccuracy is more attributable to them bending from the stresses of frequent and strenuous use than to any lack of matching to spine.



2) Would soaking arrows in water destroy them enough to make them unuseable? I could see wood absorbing water and warping, also is the fletching held on with glue which might dissolve?

Unusable? Not exactly. Even if they got bent, straightening them is not that hard--not if you've got a kettle with a good steam outlet. Inaccurate? Probably so. The feather fletching is actually more likely to get warped than the wood, and if they're not held out in the correct position as they dry they might harden into a rather undesirable shape. Dissolving the glue isn't all that easy if the glue has had the time to dry out before, and moreover European fletching (which seems to be the kind of thing you have in mind) are not only glued but also bound to the shaft with lengths of string.

Arrows damaged in this way can still be accurate if they're quite well made in the first place. You just have to take account of the bending and warping and find how far it consistently affects the arrow's flight. One of my arrows--#1, as a matter of fact--is seriously bent like this and I have to aim a certain distance off to the right in order to get it into the center of the target. (At thity meters it's way off to the right, outside the buttress!) Usually I establish how much deflection I need to give during the trial shots at the beginning of the competition.

Oh. That's another thing. A decent, serious competition would allow the archers to have one or two sets of trial shots before the competition proper, and it is not uncommon to actually set the first day of the competition as a practice day where the archers are able to shoot as much as they like without being scored. Enough practice during this preparatory period can help the archer offset much of the effects caused by the damage to his arrows--although his accuracy in the end would still be slightly lower than normal.



3) The situation is that the archer and his entourage have just travelled to the city for the competition, so the saboteur might have damaged the competition equipment on the journey since he has another scapegoat in mind. How would arrows be transported by people riding horses?

The evidence we have for medieval England is extrapolative--mostly from the arrow-bags found in the Mary Rose, which, strictly speaking, slightly outside the medieval period but close enough that the information is still reasonably useful. These are simple cylindrical linen bags, and inside them is a leather spacer pierced with holes to hold the arrows in place.

However, if you want a safer and more foolproof storage method, a wooden box or crate is certainly a good idea. I wouldn't advise rolling them up in a tarp or something--if you tie the tarp too hard, the pressure of the arrows pressing, bending, and jostling against ach other inside can damage them. Filling the crate with straw is likely to work better. Better still, build a rack-like structure to hold each arrow in place, separated from the others. This last solution might sound a bit obsessive but that's what some of the top modern archers do, while still being simple enough to be practical with a pre-industrial handyman's skill.

TheIT
07-20-2007, 09:41 PM
Thanks for the detailed response, l_clausewitz! I like the arrow bag idea. Even straw would work. Arrows packed for a couple of days in wet straw would probably smell pretty bad, so the archer would be reminded of the fiasco every time he shot which would probably affect his concentration.

Storywise, I think this scenario will still work. The saboteur is aiming to cause mischief and disharmony, so it's not essential to his plan that the archer lose. The competition is to celebrate the king's jubilee, so it's important both socially and monetarily. Let's say the archer discovers the damage the night before. He'll be up half the night trying to salvage his arrows and fuming about the scapegoat's incompetence, so when the scapegoat walks in next morning with other news, he'll get blindsided by the archer's anger.

TheIT
08-09-2007, 09:54 PM
Just checking a detail. When you shoot an arrow, when do you breathe?

What I'm trying for is that the archer with the ruined arrows has finally calmed down, he's about to take his first shot with one of the damaged arrows, and as he draws and holds the arrow near his face he gets a whiff of mold and mildew from the fletching. The sudden reminder breaks his concentration and he misses his shot. This only works if an archer breathes while aiming.

Evaine
08-11-2007, 02:25 PM
Gosh, I never thought about it - I have no idea when I breathe when I shoot!
There's an excuse to go out and practice for a bit.